Afghans pin hopes on un­der­funded elec­tion, as chal­lenges lie ahead

Global Times US Edition - - ASIANREVIEW - By Farid Be­hbud The au­thor is a writer with the Xin­hua News Agency. opin­ion@ glob­al­

Afghan elec­tion of­fi­cials be­gan voter reg­is­tra­tion on Satur­day for long-de­layed par­lia­men­tary and district coun­cil elec­tions.

Afghans are pin­ning their hopes on the elec­tions al­though chal­lenges re­main, in­clud­ing lack of funds and in­creas­ing se­cu­rity prob­lems.

On April 1, Gula Jan Ab­dul Badi Sayad, chair­man of the In­de­pen­dent Elec­tion Com­mis­sion (IEC), an­nounced Oc­to­ber 20 as the date for up­com­ing polls, twice de­layed in pre­vi­ous years.

“Fi­nally, the IEC set Oc­to­ber 20 as a new date for par­lia­men­tary and district coun­cil elec­tions. The an­nounce­ment is ab­so­lutely good news for all, and in my opin­ion the date is per­fect,” said Asadul­lah Sadaqat, an English lan­guage teacher in Kabul. “We hope the process will put an end to the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity and con­flict. Peo­ple in ev­ery part of the coun­try can par­tic­i­pate in the elec­tion be­cause the weather and cli­mate will not be a bar­rier in the process.” Sedaqat warned that in­sur­gents will do their best to sab­o­tage the elec­tions and will re­main “the main ob­struc­ter of the process.”

The first par­lia­men­tary elec­tion in post-Tal­iban Afghanistan was held in 2005 while the sec­ond par­lia­men­tary took place in 2010.

The 2015 par­lia­men­tary elec­tion, orig­i­nally set for early 2015 fol­low­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, was re­peat­edly de­layed.

As the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal par­ties did not meet stan­dards, most can­di­dates will con­test in­de­pen­dently for a five-year term at the 249-seat lower house of par­lia­ment. De­spite op­ti­mism at the polls, the par­lia­men­tary and district coun­cil elec­tions face chal­lenges such as lack of bud­get, se­cu­rity dan­gers and lack of trust in elec­tion com­mis­sion of­fi­cials.

Se­cu­rity is the most se­ri­ous chal­lenge. It seems that pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity for the elec­tion will be a daunt­ing chal­lenge for Afghan se­cu­rity forces as well as in­ter­na­tional troops.

“Out of the to­tal 7,355 polling sta­tions, 1,122 cen­ters are un­der a medium se­cu­rity threat and an­other 1,120 face se­ri­ous se­cu­rity threats: all of which need to be se­cured by the se­cu­rity in­sti­tu­tions,” Deputy Min­is­ter of the In­te­rior Min­istry Gen­eral Mu­rad Ali Mu­rad told lo­cal me­dia.

An­other key is­sue is the bud­get for the elec­tion. In­ter­na­tional donors have pre­vi­ously pro­vided the re­quired bud­get for the elec­tions but this time it is un­known who will pay for the elec­tions.

The 2014 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, marred by mas­sive fraud that led to a re-run, un­der­mined peo­ple’s trust in the elec­tion com­mis­sion­ers. Peo­ple doubt the abil­ity of the elec­tion au­thor­i­ties to hold a fair, free and trans­par­ent elec­tion.

“I do not want to par­tic­i­pate in the up­com­ing elec­tion be­cause my vote will not be counted as it was not counted in the past pres­i­den­tial and par­lia­men­tary elec­tions,” said Mur­taza Ashuri, a univer­sity stu­dent.

“It is in the in­ter­ests of all Afghans and the govern­ment to hold an elec­tion and there is no al­ter­na­tive to it. The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity ought to help the govern­ment of Afghani- stan’s elec­tions both fi­nan­cially and tech­ni­cally,” said Ab­dul Wa­hab Karimi, a law pro­fes­sor at pri­vate Ibn-e-Sina Univer­sity.

Bah­sir Ah­mad Qasani, a re­spected jour­nal­ist, told lo­cal 1TV Tele­vi­sion, that lack of fund­ing re­mained a chal­lenge for the elec­tion body.

“The last pres­i­den­tial and par­lia­men­tary polls were marred by mas­sive elec­tion fraud. We must do more to en­cour­age peo­ple to reg­is­ter for up­com­ing votes and per­suade them to trust in IEC staff and politi­cians as well,” Qasani said.

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